It’s my turn on the Blogtour Burning Secret by R.J. Lloyd – ‘An ancestor found, a name change, criminal activity and more in Harry Mason’s great great grandson’s fictionalised retelling of his life.’
About the Author
Tracing your ancestors has never been more popular, but what if your ancestor was far more intriguing than you ever thought?
In R J Lloyd’s fictionalised reconstruction of his lost ancestor, Burning Secret, he explores the rich past of his great great grandfather and what might have been. Follow @rjlwriteruk on Twitter
About the book
As in life, the book begins in 1844, when Enoch Price was born into poverty. An ambitious youth, he becomes a bare-knuckle fighter in London’s underworld. In debt to a violent and unscrupulous moneylender and facing ruin and imprisonment, he escapes to Jacksonville, Florida, abandoning his wife and three young daughters, a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. By the time he arrives in Florida, Enoch Price has become Harry Mason.
Through a series of thrilling and risky escapades, he plays an important role in the development and history of Jacksonville, building an extraordinary new life of political and financial notoriety, shooting a rival, and concealment of a murder. Despite imploring his wife to join him, she declines, exhausted by his lies.
Tormented by loneliness and guilt, Harry seeks solace through a bigamous marriage, leading him into a web of deceit as he tries to conceal his true identity. Meanwhile, lauded and enjoying popular success, Harry is elected in 1903 to the Florida State House of Representatives with the prospect of becoming State Governor. He advances his business interests through a series of corrupt practices, becoming a wealthy and successful politician.
However, success brings neither happiness nor contentment, and, seeking redemption, Harry plans to return home – but life is never that simple as the First World War breaks out, the Spanish flu takes its toll, and the American government introduces prohibition. Will there be a good end for Harry, or will his secrets prove to be the death of him?
Enoch is hanging on to life outside of prison by the skin of his teeth – it’s only a question of time until his troubles catch up with him. He has a wife and three daughters to think of, and he decides to go on the run. With a purpose, with the promise of new beginnings for all of them.
Except it doesn’t work out that way, well for him it does, as he reinvents himself and makes his mark on and in a new country, whilst always thinking about his loved ones. His wife no longer trusts him, and in the end Enoch, now Harry, leaves all aspects of the old life in the past and turns to pastures greener.
In the afterword, there is a lot of information about familial connections and their fate, historical and relevant figures to the story. What I would like to know was just how much of the story is based on fact or fiction. Given the extra information I would say the author has merely filled in the blanks and created likely scenarios, regardless of whether they are often seen from a more positive and/or negative perspective given the the main character is family, and there is no way to reproduce how the first family and wife really felt about the way he abandoned them.
If he was truly tormented then surely he would have done something about it, but then the house of cards would have collapsed, right? It’s easier to imagine that life goes on, regardless of his presence, but the real question is whether his presence and/or the status he acquired would have made a difference to their lives. The reality of a woman and three small children being left behind in those circumstances – it would have been tough.
It’s a fascinating story that can be interpreted in different ways. You can see the deception and the fact this man led a lifetime of lies or see the man who navigated another path for himself, and made a more positive impact in the second part of his story. Either way it is one heck of a story, and life.
Buy Burning Secret at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Matador, pub date 28 June 2022 | ISBN: 9781803131498 | Price: £10.99. Buy at Amazon com. Buy via Troubador – Matador.